Star trails in the north can be tricky if you plan on doing long exposures. The long exposures that are needed to show the rotation of the stars are often blown out by the aurora. Which is a nice problem to have if you’re prepared, and you can end up with some fantastic results that make your star trails unique. With digital photography and Photoshop, you can now use multiple frames to build the star trails without fear of the aurora over-exposing your frames.
This is a series of photos I took near Giant Mine, Yellowknife, NT, Canada. The photos were all taken at f/2.8, ISO 250, and 15 second exposures. I used a headlamp to do some light painting to fill in the foregrounds and give the pictures more detail than just silhouetted trees.
You can really experiment with your painting if you’re doing multiple exposures too. If you end up painting something in a way you don’t like in a particular frame, you can mask it out in photoshop and no one will ever know.
Another light problem that was mitigated by using multiple exposures was the sunset on the horizon. Again, the multiple exposures allowed me to keep that little pop of colour in my photos instead it being washed out.
All of the photos were taken after midnight and before 3am. The horizon was constantly lit with afterglow of the sun set, giving the pictures a little more colour and contrast. The landscape was so barren and alien looking that I knew it would make a great place for these types of photos. Star trails are often done in the desert far from any light sources. And while the north can be remote, it is blessed with an abundance of light. Even in the darkest hours of night.